State officials encourage Illinoisans to plan for weather emergencies

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If a tornado hits in the middle of the night, do you have two different devices to wake you up so that you can take shelter?

March is Severe Weather Preparedness Month, and the goal is to get people thinking about how to be ready if a severe weather emergency hits.

Rebecca Clark of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency said the first smart step is having two devices that provide wake-up alerts for severe weather, but relying on only one type of alert may prove to be dangerous.

“Don’t rely on a cell phone alone,” Clark said.

A free FEMA app is available for cell phones and it can be programmed to wake people up, but a cell phone may be in another room or cell service may be down, Clark said.

Clark said it is not safe to rely on only an outdoor siren alert, as well.

“Don’t rely on outdoor sirens,” she said.

Outdoor sirens are not designed to rouse people who are sleeping.

Clark recommends having a weather radio with a battery backup that is programmed to send out a loud warning. A weather radio can be programmed for your zip code to give you vital emergency information, she said. Weather radios let people know when the storm or tornado has passed and it is safe to come out, Clark said.

Clark emphasized the importance of having a designated safe place in a house to go in case of severe weather. A ground floor bathroom with no windows or a basement–if available–are good places to wait out storms.

To be prepared for severe weather, everyone needs a plan and an emergency supply kit. Batteries, non-plug-in cell phone chargers, water, first aid kits, sleeping bags, non-electric can openers and foods which require no cooking are some important items to have on hand in case of emergencies, Clark recommended.

People may be separated during a severe weather emergency so it’s important to designate someone outside the home county that everyone can call for check-ins, she said.

The National Weather Service and the Illinois Emergency Management Agency offer a free Severe Weather Preparedness Guide with tips, Clark said. The latest version of the guide has new information on tornadoes and flash floods. Clark also invites people to take a look at the website Ready Illinois for more lists of emergency supplies and other key information.

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